A brief account of Treviso

‘Dove Sile e Cagnan s’accompagna’ – Dante Alighieri, Divina Commedia, Paradiso, IX, v.49

‘Where the Sile and the Cagnan join’ – Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, IX, l.49

Treviso is a small city situated in the North-East of Italy in the region of the Veneto (you start knowing a lot about it, eh?)  It is 40 minutes away from Venice and an hour away from Padua. It is the capital of its Province. It currently counts around 80.000 inhabitants.It is rather short of attractions, so you can visit it in a day if you want. There is a small airport with cheap flights near the city. The Sile and the Cagnan from Dante are the two rivers that meet in the city. 

Why am I going to talk about it if there is not much to see, then? Well, Treviso is a bit special to me. A part of my family comes from that Province, so I had to research information about the area. So, why not share my discoveries with you.

Although Treviso existed before the Roman Empire, it is during this era that the city took off properly to become a commercial hub of the Empire. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was left to the whims of the barbarians. You will be happy to learn that Attila did not go as far as Treviso!
During the Middle Ages, Treviso was part of the Lombard League which was an alliance of Italian cities to counteract the Holy Roman Empire from becoming too powerful in Italy. In 1183, with the Peace of Constance, Treviso and the other cities of the League gained their independence. It became a signory where important families actually ruled the city.

The city, after forging an alliance with the Republic of Venice, became willingly an integral part of la Serenissima’s jurisdiction. Treviso grew slowly in Venice’s shadow which explains why it is not so famous nowadays. You would not necessarily plan for a visit to Treviso, do you?

Later on, it fell in Napoleon’s hands, and in 1815, the city became Austrian. In 1866, like Venice and the rest of the Veneto, it joined the newly constituted country of Italy.

You will find a lot of people wearing the names ‘Trevisano’ or ‘Trevisan’. These people had an ancestor coming from the city of Treviso, then! ‘Trevisan’ is in the dialect of the Veneto (in the North-East of Italy, they tend to drop the last vowel in a word like they do with names such as Perin, Padovan, Marenot, Pilon…).  

It is quite a food city as well with a lot of specialities. In the Province of Treviso, you will find a lot of different meats such as sausages. You will be able to taste good cheese as well! But the most famous product from the Province is its radicchio, or chicory.It is excellent in a risotto. What you wouldn’t believe is that, apparently, the famous tiramisu comes from Treviso. And to finish, Prosecco is produced in Treviso. Do you need other motivations to go there?

In Treviso, you will find a nice city centre with a river. It is quite pretty!

The main places you will need to see are the Duomo, the Piazza dei Signori and the Palazzo dei Trecento.

To start with the Duomo, I was a bit surprised to learn that in 1760, it was completely destroyed on purpose. The former structure did not seem well built nor harmonious, and it was decided to bring it down entirely and rebuild it. When I say ‘destroyed’, I also mean that they annihilated all the artefacts (sculptures, paintings, old furniture…) in the church! The whole artistic past was consumed along with the old Duomo as if they did not want to leave any trace of Treviso’s history. The new edifice was finished in 1836, and ornamented with columns.

The Piazza dei Signori is a landmark of Italian urban organisation. You will find a square with such a name in every city which was, at one point, ruled by a ‘Signoria’, a kind of local government formed by all the most important families of the area (when I say families, I mean the men…as usual!). It is particularly common in northern Italy. The one in Treviso is the main meeting point in the city. 

On the square, you can find the Palazzo dei Trecento. The name comes from the Great Council, composed of 300 members, which held sessions in the Palace. It dates back from the 13th century, and was refurbished and redecorated several times. It necessitated restauration after bombings in 1944.

Behind the Palace, you can see the Torre Civica. You will always find towers in Italy! Like the ones in Bologna, you have the symbol of power that is attached to it. Nevertheless, it was mainly for security that such great towers were built in the first place. Wars were a common foe, particularly in such a divided country where the regions’ interests were so important. These towers were used to survey the horizon to check any foreign or dangerous presence. The Torre Civica was first built in the 13th century. It was rebuilt similarly in the 19th. It is the symbol of Treviso.

The visit does not stop here, but clearly, I have dwelt sufficiently upon it! 

I hope it makes you want to see Treviso because it is a nice place. You can stop by, and have a meal there! 

Keep moving,

Best wishes,

I M Gullivering.


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